American Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology

Laminins (Ln) are crucial in airway morphogenesis. Because they are able to interact with inflammatory cells, they are likely to participate in inflammation accompanied by airway structural remodeling in asthma. Taking biopsies and using immunohistochemistry and quantitative image analysis, we characterized the distribution of Ln chains alpha 1, alpha 2, and beta 2 in the bronchial mucosa of patients with seasonal (n = 17), early occupational (n = 8), and chronic asthma (n = 16) for comparison with that of normal controls (n = 8). In all asthmatic patients, both Ln chains alpha 1 and beta 2 were confined to the superficial margin of the basement membrane (BM), blood vessels, and smooth muscle. The thickness of Ln beta 2 expression in BM was significantly greater in patients with chronic (1.9 +/- 0.1 microns; P < 0.001) and occupational asthma (1.7 +/- 0.1 microns; P < 0.05) than in controls (0.4 +/- 0.3 microns). Only in patients with occupational asthma was the thickness of the Ln alpha 1 layer (2.3 +/- 0.2 microns; mean +/- SEM) significantly different from that in controls (1.4 +/- 0.5 microns; P < 0.05). There was no immunoreactivity for the Ln alpha 2 chain in controls or patients with mild asthma, but in clinically severe chronic asthma we found a discontinuous staining along the epithelial margin of the BM. Since Ln chains alpha 2 and beta 2 appear to function only during morphogenesis, increased expression of these Ln chains in adult asthma patients suggests accelerated tissue turnover in the airways, possibly as a result of airway inflammation in asthma.

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American Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology
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